Southern Encounter was a highly experimental arts of sound project commissioned for the artistic program of Regional Arts Australia’s 2012 National Regional Arts Conference and Festival, ‘Kumuwuki / Big Wave’, held in Goolwa, South Australia October 18-21st 2012.
Utilising South Australia’s oldest rail route, Southern Encounter was a four-hour journey presented on a chartered heritage train. It provided audiences with a landscape-scale experience of ‘happenings’ that incorporated performance, installation, online spaces and the interdisciplinary arts of sound as audience’s traversed coastal Victor Harbor through to inland Strathalbyn.
Southern Encounter reflected the distinctions, nuances and pluralities of communities and the mutable landscapes in which they exist. Curated by Sarah Last of The Wired Lab ‘Southern Encounter’ featured 9 individual artists and community groups, and was commissioned and co-produced by Steve Mayhew ‘Kumuwuki’ Artistic Director & Creative Producer @ Country Arts SA. The Southern Encounter journey incorporated 6 new works:
“Echocline” - Tristan Louth-Robins
A three part audio work composed from field recordings made around the Fleurieu and Alexandrina regions – from the coastal areas through to lake settlements and the inland regions. The work provided audiences with composite ‘sound images’ of the acoustic ecologies of the habitats we traversed throughout the journey. https://www.tristanlouthrobins.com/
“Sheep Muster” - Sarah Last & Dave Burraston
A multi channel work utilising the talents of a local farmer, his sheep dogs and a flock of sheep. Contact microphones were attached throughout a paddock, mixed live, and amplified through the railcars, making an ordinary paddock the stage for a gripping, eventful and sonic experience of the theatre and craft of sheep mustering.
“Piano Drag” - Sarah Last & Dave Burraston, with the Ngarrindjeri Rritjarukar Choir & soloist Rita Lindsay
Featuring a common instrument of colonization, this encounter interrogated pre and post-colonial histories of the landscape, and was partly in homage to Christian Marclay’s “Guitar Drag” (1999). A piano was amplified as it was dragged behind a train, with live video feed of the piano’s disintegration projected throughout the rail carriages. “Piano Drag” was bookended by recordings of members of Ngarrindjeri Rritjarukar Choir singing in Ngarrindjeri language. The work opened with a traditional song about pelicans and closed with a solo of ‘Amazing Grace’ sung by Rita Lindsay. “Piano Drag” explored collected mythologies of the piano, its association to colonisation and the strong presence and connection of the Ngarrindjeri to the land.
“Resonant Ghosts” Luke Harrald
Through a collection of site-specific field recordings, historical research of the Currency Creek Bridge’s construction and its impact on local communities, the ghosts of trains past were assembled into a 14 minute composition and presented whilst the train was stationary on the 65 metre high bridge. https://www.lukeharrald.com.au/
“The Office of Random Encounters” - Public Assembly (Lynda Roberts, Ceri Hann) with Jesse Cox & Eddie Roberts
A multilayered participatory sound installation responding to the railway line’s location and communication encounters, eg. rail/telegraphy, passengers. There were three key aspects to the work:
- Morse: gathering of encounters from train passengers that were translated by a telegraphist, & accumulated to become a collectively constructed composition
- Voice: encounters from the community around the line
- Residual digital documentation beyond the event
“End of the Line- StrathAlbum” - Matthew Timmis
Utilising hi-fi equipment, harmoniums, computer generated sounds of the performance, and a Fender Rhodes this site-specific composition was performed as an immersive ‘surround’ installation at the Strathalbyn rail yard. This piece incorporated obsolescence, decay and the circular particular to the locations’ railway turntable.
Storify feed of the entire project – contributions by Southern Encounter’s audience and the general public were invited before, during and after the event on Twitter (#sthen), Flickr, Instagram, YouTube and Soundcloud. These were collated by Fee Plumley into a Storify feed, which provides links to audio visual documentation and audience responses, Storify link HERE.
Thanks also to Wombat Trax Audio, Que Minh Luu and the local community groups SteamRanger Heritage Railway, the SA Sheepdog Association and those who shared their stories, including Fleurieu Birdwatchers, Hoad Fisheries, David Wilson and the South Coast Amateur Radio Club, South Coast Model Aerosport Club, South Australian EPA, Goolwa Lions Club, Adelaide Treasure Hunters.
‘Southern Encounter’ and The Wired Lab was supported by Country Arts SA through its Performance Development program and has been made possible through financial assistance of the Australia Council’s Music Board, Arts SA’s Independent Makers and Producers Fund and the NSW Government through Arts NSW.
On Monday 26th August 2013, Southern Encounter was announced the winner of not one but TWO awards at the Australian Performing Rights Association (APRA) and Australian Music Centre (AMC) ’2013 Art Music Awards’. Amongst a very talented field Southern Encounter (+ all its participating artists, collaborators & community members) won awards for ‘Excellence in a Regional Area’ and ‘Excellence in Experimental Music’. Read full list of winners and judges comments HERE.